Customer Service

How is your customer service? It is such an important part of every business and yet small businesses often fail to pay enough attention to it – curious since many of those same businesses will tell you that it is their customer service that sets them apart from their competitors.

We’ve had cause to look at our customer service a couple of times in the last month or so. As a part of our service, we provide email for folks. So when email doesn’t work, we get called. Interestingly enough, the problem is rarely with our service.

One customer emailed me because his largest customer suddenly quit accepting emails from him and also refused to deliver emails to him. From his perspective, it was our problem.

The first thing we did was check carefully through our systems and logs to see if there were any problems on our end that we could iron out for him. There weren’t.

We always take customer service seriously. So instead of telling him, as most email providers would, that the problem was not on our end, we reached out, through him, to his customer’s IT staff. Their first response was that they had no problem on their end.  But their second response – we are persistent – was that perhaps there might be an issue.

All told we spent over three hours helping our customer’s client resolve their email issue. That started because our customer turned to us for help. I’m not suggesting everyone turn to us for help. I am suggesting that we strengthened our client relationship by staying with the problem instead of pushing it off on someone else.

When we have experiences, good or bad, with customer service, we always hold them up as mirror to see how we compare.

Yes, we build great web sites. Yes we develop some of the most amazing things for our customers. But when we say our buzzwords are Partner, Engage, Convert, we take each one very seriously and that partnering means that we help you solve your problems.

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Standing Out in a Crowd

2012 04 10 11 32 54 559 E1334356285339Most business owners understand the value of having a Unique Selling Proposition, that special something that sets them apart from the rest of the competition and makes folks choose their company when there are lots of choices.

Only some folks get it better than others. Look at the picture on the left.

The wearer of this tuxedo will definitely stand out in the crowd. But will he leave the impression he desires? Will the ladies think “Wow, I can’t wait until I see that guy again?” or are they more likely to think “Wow, I hope I never see that guy again?”

Are you giving out that kind of an impression to your customers? What is it that sets you apart from the crowd?

We all want to stand out in the right way. Look at the picture of an iPad.

Something about it makes you think “ohh, cool” It looks elegant. If you’ve touched anything techy in the last couple of years and look at one of these, you want to pick it up and start using it. It really is a nifty little contraption that lets you do all manner of cool and useful things.Ipad

That’s how we all want people to interact with our brand. Whether it’s a tagline, a logo, or a product we make exclusively, we want to generate that same good emotional feeling.

Your web site evokes an emotional feeling in visitors. I encourage you to take a look at your site with fresh eyes. What feeling does it evoke? Tired eyes? Get a colleague or customer, someone who hasn’t been to your site (or not in a while) and see what their response is.

For example let’s take an example of whitewater rafts. It’s that time of the year to plan your trip and it just so happens that one of our customers, www.downriverequip.com sells them. Take a look at their site. What emotions do you get?

The idea we are targeting here is that you’re right there on the river. Seasoned rafters will recognize a river map in the background. And yet you can also see the menu and wide range of products available.

Contrast that with this site I just found: http://www.boatstogo.com/. They too sell rafts. What emotions does this site bring up? What is memorable about it? What makes them stand out?

Take some time to contrast your site with the competition. Does it stand out? If so, is it in a good way or is it more like the orange tuxedo?

If it seems like you’re not projecting the right image, give us a call and we’ll help you out  – 303 268-2245 ext. 4.

 

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What Numbers are Important for your Website?

What numbers are important for you in your business? Are you even a numbers person? I used to not be a numbers person. I have two degrees in the humanities and I liked to live in the realm of ideas. But of course, ideas alone don’t make money.

So over the years I’ve become more and more of a numbers person. And it is exciting. That’s what surprised me. I love to brag about how we helped one client raise their online revenue more than 35% in one year. I love to brag about the client whose site we redesigned had a 900% increase in traffic from Google as a result of our work and training. I love to brag about the school that initially balked at our price tag until I pointed out that three new students would pay for the site in the first year and they’d have eight more years of those students. And none of that would have been possible if I hadn’t become more of a numbers person.

Just this morning I had a conversation with a potential customer about numbers. I asked “how will you know this is successful a year from now?” He started off with “I’ll measure the number of visitors . . .” but before he could go any further, I politely interrupted and explained that measuring isn’t a measure of success. As this is a brand new endeavor, we talked about setting a number – any reasonable number – as that will then inform many of the other decisions he makes about building and marketing his site. Once that number is established, whether it turns out to be way low, way high or spot on, it is something to work towards.

What numbers are you watching on your web site? Here are some things that might be useful:

  • Number of visitors
  • Number of new visitors
  • Most popular pages,
  • Bounce rate of individual pages
  • Number of sales
  • Average price of sales
  • Incoming key phrase searches
  • Onsite key phrase searches
  • Number of newsletter signups
  • Number of contact forms filled out
  • Time on site
  • Time on page

You can measure just about anything online. Pick carefully what you’re watching and then watch those numbers consistently. Stay alert for trends – annually, monthly, daily, hourly or even for trends regarding how frequently you email your list and the response rate on your site.

The key is to be (or become) a numbers person!

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Convergence

One of the cool things that I see happening again and again is the convergence that happens in Social Media. Personal and Professional lives converge and people make connections that never would have happened otherwise.

This has always happened in Face to Face networks but the obvious limiting factors in such instances are geography and room size. We’re limited to the number of people that are or can fit in the room and to the people who are in the area.

But online those two limiting factors disappear. This first hit me a couple of years ago when my friend Max, who organizes cool tours to exotic places told me how he posted something on his personal facebook page about a trip to Africa. His post wasn’t marketing in nature, it was along the lines of “Looking forward to the upcoming trip to Kenya”. The convergence happened when he booked a couple of spots on the tour by folks who saw his post.

I was conveniently reminded of how this convergence works when I posted, last week, on our corporate Facebook page, about how thrilled we were to be working with two new customers, a Lutheran Church and a Lutheran School. An old friend from Iowa saw that posting and invited me to a Lutheran conference in Florida in January. Seems like a no-brainer. Spend my time and energy networking in cold Colorado in January or spend it in sunny Florida. Hmmm. What should I do?

In the first instance Max’s personal sphere attracted new customers into his professional sphere. In the latter, my professional sphere overlapped into my personal sphere, creating an opportunity that wouldn’t have otherwise been there.

What does this mean? (a very well-known question in the Lutheran Church) It means what I have been telling people for years – don’t forget the SOCIAL part of Social Media Marketing – people want to know you personally, even if they’re doing business with you but also don’t forget the MARKETING part of Social Media Marketing. Often people don’t do business with you because you haven’t asked them to.

So I guess I’ll close this with our pitch – Partner – Engage – Convert. Lots of firms partner with their customers to engage web site visitors. And then stop. We help folks figure out how to convert their visitors into clients. Need help with this? Call Brian at 303 268-2245 to find out what else you can be doing.

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Are You Throwing Money Away?

I often hear comments like “We tried Facebook and it didn’t work” or “I spent $4000 on Google AdWords and didn’t get anything”.  The first question I ask is “What were your goals?” and follow up with “How were you measuring results?” The answer, all too frequently, is a blank stare.

Throwing money at problems is a solution best reserved for government. Well, I’d prefer they not use it either but that is a different discussion. If you are planning to do any kind of online marketing you need to have a plan. Otherwise you can just drive down the highway, open your wallet, and throw the money out the window. You have just as good a chance of someone picking it up and tracking you down as you do getting any kind of results that will help you grow your business.

Here are the important elements to putting together an online marketing plan:

Understand Elements: What are the parts of your online marketing. Often the most important one is the one most overlooked – the website. Often the website is the centerpiece of the marketing because it is the piece you have the most control over. Other elements include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • Paid Search (usually Google AdWords)
  • Paid Advertising (on other web sites)
  • Email campaign(s)
  • Foursquare
  • Landing Pages (usually a part of your website)

Understand Offline Elements:  Usually an effective Internet Marketing campaign is folded into a larger marketing campaign. This might include a direct mail campaign, distributing flyers, newspaper advertising, ads on bus benches, billboards, or a variety of other venues. The important part of bringing these together is understanding how they work. For example QR codes can be an effective way to move people from print to digital. It is also important to maintain consistency in brand and message across media.

Start with the End in Mind: You have to have a clue – that is, it helps to know where you want to go so that you can use your resources wisely. So determine what success will look like:

  1. Will it be an additional $x in revenue each month?
  2. Will it be x number of new customers?
  3. Will it be x number of new leads?
  4. Will it be x number of downloads of a video or file?
  5. Will it be x number of new appointments?

You can add to this list as needed. The important thing is that the end is geared toward helping you grow. Once you know where you are going, you can begin to plan how to get there.

Determine Parts to Include: Now you are ready to figure out what all needs to be included. If the goal is to generate leads for your business, you might determine that paid advertising or paid search aren’t the right venue. But running a contest of some kind on Facebook and Tweeting about it on Twitter might be just right. One of the strengths of Internet Marketing is that you can change your mind pretty quickly. If the paid search yields zero results, you aren’t stuck with it – you can stop within minutes. Or start it nearly as quick.

Determine Integration and Flow: It is still important to keep the big picture in mind. If you’re doing a print campaign as well and using a QR code to get people to your Facebook page, test the code with several different devices to make sure it works. Boy it gets embarrassing (and expensive) to direct people to the wrong (or a non-existent) page. Another thing to consider is steps in the process. While the ultimate goal may be getting them to fill out a form on your site, getting them to first “Like” you on Facebook makes it much easier for you to reach out to them in the future.

Determine Measurement Points: We strongly recommend the adage “What gets measured is what gets done” So determine what all you will measure. A good example of this can be seen in the travel industry.  While a very large percentage of folks research travel online, a much smaller percentage actually book online. So bookings would be one thing to measure but “intent to travel” is also something to try to measure. This can be measured by how many people actually viewed a deal on your web site or Facebook page. Or by how many people checked pricing. Or by how many people liked your page.

A key here is to have several measurement points. If you’re just looking at online bookings for example, you might consider the campaign a failure even though overall bookings are up – an indication that people are researching online and then calling. Without several measurement points, you might miss what is actually happening. Of course you can always build in better tracking by adding text like “mention deal 23 when calling” to your online ads.

Determine Evaluation: Once you’ve got the parts above figured out you can determine how you’ll evaluate success. The most obvious measure will be the one that impacts your bottom line. But you also want to be flexible and look at your results. If your goal was x number of downloads of that whitepaper you worked so hard and you fall short, you could say, “I give up” or you could look and see that you actually got more Facebook “likes” than you anticipated and that once you were liked, it was 25% more likely that someone would do business with you.

So the thrust of this part is to keep an open mind and look at all of your metrics to better understand what is working and what is not. For the parts that are working, see if you can tweak them to make them more effective. For those that aren’t working, determine whether tweaking or tossing is the best course of action. Then start your next campaign, incorporating everything you’ve learned from the one just completed.

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Test Your Way to Success

Are you doing any testing on your web site? You ought to be. The testing, in fact, can be outside of your side whether through email marketing, social media or a variety of other options.

I subscribe to Which Test Won (www.whichtestwon.com) and I learn something new each week.  This week I was sure I had it nailed. They ran an email campaign for an ecommerce store and I was sure the “On Sale Now” heading would draw attention and close the deal.

Nope. Wrong again. The subtle approach wins. But here is what the folks running the test did that I want to talk about: The contents of the email were identical except for this one part (the call to action). So they were pretty confident in the results.

Because the “subtle” approach took less space, this also pulled up the video link beneath it which may have made the whole thing more visual and drawn attention first to the video link and then to the call to action.

And the other key thing is that the company is testing to see what is more effective. If you aren’t testing, you’re not learning what works. Simple A / B testing can be done on your web site very easily through Google Website Optimizer. Most email marketing programs have this built in as well.

So what can you test?

  • Sales Copy
  • Images
  • Buttons
  • Colors
  • Button colors
  • Image colors
  • Calls to action
  • Position of elements on the page / email
  • Heading
  • Subject line
  • Bulleted text vs. free flowing sentences

What do you need to get started? Simply an understanding of how much traffic you have to the page or email and one item to test.

Been testing? Don’t stop. Once you figure out what “the winner” is, keep that and test some other aspect.

Need help? Let us know.Православни икони

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Top Five Mistakes in Web Design

With the explosion of the web – from new sites to new friends / pages on Facebook to new followers on Twitter and new connections on LinkedIn, there are distractions and sites screaming out for our attention all over the place. So how does a professional website design agency do it right? Well here are five mistakes we avoid:

  1. Not having a call to action
    The biggest problem we see is web sites that don’t have a clear call to action. Without a next step, people will visit, view and leave. Without contacting you, buying from you, becoming your customer. Sometimes the next step is to click to the next page – that’s ok. The key is to have a next step and many very reputable sites don’t have this crucial feature.
  2. Having too many calls to action
    Having too many calls is just as bad as not having any call to action. Two to four choices is best. If you cram 32 calls to action (I know a site that has that many), you lose people. Divide those 32 calls into four groups of eight each and present four calls to action on the home page and then perhaps give them all eight on the next but you’ll also likely see that you can combine two or more of the items into one, giving your visitors fewer choices. Remember the key is to not make the visitor have to think.
  3. Making the site all graphics
    Print designers make beautiful web sites. But they are often all graphics or flash which might make the website less usable and will definitely leave it ranked lower in search engines. The dirty little secret is that search engines index content and the best content to index is text. Putting the text into the graphics give you (or your designer) complete control over the look of the site but also makes it highly likely that Google won’t index that text, thus hurting your search rankings.
  4. Not providing context – navigation or breadcrumbs
    Many web site owners envision their site as all visitors starting on the home page and navigating through from there to the next level and the next is a logical progression. However with search being what it is, visitors coming through search may end up deep into your web site as their first page. Therefore it is incumbent on website owners / developers to clearly show the context of what page you’re on. This can be done through navigation devices such as highlighting the page you’re on in the navigation or even through breadcrumbs – displaying towards the top of the page where you at and the way back “home”.
  5. Providing too much or duplicate information
    Just last week I was on a site that looked like it was a lot bigger than what it was. There were lots of different calls to action but they all took me to the same form – a basic contact form. Having all kinds of differently labeled links going to the same place is not useful. Providing a lot more information than is necessary is not useful. Cut down on the prose and shoot for bulleted or numbered lists to get your point across. In the same way that you don’t want lots of different links pointing to the same place, you don’t want to have the same information in more than one place on the site. We see businesses making this mistake frequently. It becomes embarrassing when one section of the site mentions a conference on Thursday and Friday and another refers to the same conference but says it is on Friday and Saturday. People don’t know which to believe and it ends up hurting your credibility. Remember to Keep It Straight & Simple (KISS).

If you can avoid these five mistakes on your web site, your visitors will be much more likely to have a productive and enjoyable experience and you will be much more likely to capture their business.

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Click

Sometimes that is all it takes. Click and all the pieces fall into place. In our case that is usually what happens. We intentionally go after those “Click!” moments as that is when we know that we’ll be working with a new customer / partner.

Click happens when your internet marketing goals converge perfectly with your web site design. For each industry and even for each business the click is something unique that occurs when we connect what they want to accomplish (more customers, bigger customers, “stickier” customers, etc.) and the plan we have for designing their site come together just so.

While usually the “Click” seems to be an intuitive thing, there are steps you can follow to help you focus on what will click for your web site.

  1. Determine what sets your business apart from the competition. NOTE: Superior service is not what sets you apart. EVERYBODY says that. Consider niches or vertical markets that you work particularly well with.
  2. Ponder or brainstorm with others how you can leverage your unique selling proposition (what sets you apart) be highlighted or leveraged through your site. We recently did this with a tourism related site and came up with a unique trip planner that fits very nicely with their business goals. When we came up with the idea, we could almost hear the “Click” as everyone realized that happened.
  3. Look at what the competition is doing on their sites. Look especially at what they’re doing well and brainstorm how you can do it even better.
  4. Consider every area of what your business does. Too often all the attention is placed on customer acquisition when customer retention or customer engagement may be a better use of web resources. For example if your existing customers can log in and check the status of their account, that frees up more man power to be out acquiring new customers.
  5. Look at what your web site does now. Is it clear? More importantly, is it easy for visitors to take the next step (whatever that next step is)? Obfuscation in the name of design is a common mistake we see in web sites. It doesn’t matter how pretty your site is if it drives people away. Consider how you can streamline it – thinking about what steps or pages can be eliminated or combined.

While sometimes “Click” happens while working on one of these steps, as mentioned in step 2, it is more often considering all of these steps together when it happens.

If Click hasn’t happened on your site yet, take some time to work through these steps and see what happens.

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5 Things to Measure in Social Media Marketing

Most businesses engaging in Social Media Marketing measure things like “Likes” or “Followers”. That’s not bad but Internet Marketing is more than a popularity contest. For a small business

  1. Number of Interactions on Facebook – shows they’re engaged.
    Developing a successful Facebook page where your fans or “likers” not only like a particular item but make comments. Developing a following that interacts with you on social media emboldens them to interact with you as customer.
  2. Number of click-thru’s – from Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn back to your site.
    This is easy to track. It’s also, if something you’re measuring, easier to create ways for people to do so.
  3. Increase in number of people who attend an event or call you after/during a campaign.
    Depending on your business and the appropriate call to action, you might “see” the results as click thru’s but if you hold an event that was properly publicized on social media and see an increase in attendance or participation, you can begin to make the connection.
  4. Number of hits on a landing page on your site from a campaign.
    While similar to number of click-thru’s, creating a special landing page is one way to very clearly check how much traffic you get from your campaign. It is also smart because you can have a page specifically created for that campaign, making it highly targeted.
  5. Increase in customers as a direct result of a campaign
    Ultimately, your social media marketing needs to get you more customers. For each business the method of acquisition is different but you need to measure this or you might as well not even do social media in the first place.

It isn’t a popularity contest, it’s business. It’s important to measure things that impact your bottom line. Need more help figuring out what to measure? Check out our March 15 seminar, How to Build an Internet Marketing Plan.

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Measuring Up

What do you measure on your web site? Do you measure the number of hits? The number of unique visitors? The number of visits from search engines?
All of those might be useful to you. The key is to take in the big picture. It would be a shame to be ranked number 1 in the search engines for your key phrase and drive hundreds or thousands of visitors to your site but not get any business from it.
After all, aren’t we all in business to make money?
So when you measure, make sure that you measure throughout the funnel. How many calls or sales or submissions do you get through your web site? These are measurables that create direct contact with a potential customer. Once the web site has accomplished that, then it is up to you and your processes to close the deal.
So if you see that your web site traffic has doubled or tripled, or perhaps had a 20% increase, that should translate into an increased amount of direct contact measurables. If it hasn’t, it’s time to re-examine your site.
Now you will want to measure things like bounce rate and time on site to see what is and is not working. If your home page has a really high bounce rate, for example, then you need to look at what isn’t working on the home page. Is it difficult to navigate? Is it unclear what the next step is?
By evaluating what you’re measuring, you get the big picture and can make meaningful changes that will positively affect your bottom line.
During the cold war, the key US phrase was “Trust but Verify”. When it comes to your web site, the phrase should be “Measure but Evaluate”.

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